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Downtown Review: English

By Amelia Levin in Food on Aug 21, 2007 8:48PM


If “d-bag” or other words relating to female cleansing products came to your head when you first heard about English opening in the Clark/LaSalle/Ontario corridor, you’re not too far off. The weekends are a sure bet for sceney types and well, so is a Monday after work apparently. So why even go there? If you like that sort of stare-down beautiful people watching, you’re in luck here. If not, stick to the sidewalk patio or the much quieter third floor bar/pool table/seating area, and you’ll be in the clear. Other good news is the drinks here are stiff and reasonably priced, the servers attentive, and the food’s pretty tasty.

08_2007_Chicagoist_English%20003.jpgSpeaking of tasty, unless you’re a vegetarian or avoid pork, a must-try are the English crisps, especially if you’re hungry. These aren’t just your ordinary “crisps” (translation: Brit speak for chips). In fact, they're fries: a perfect balance between softness, saltiness and crispiness, a mound of waffle-shaped ones comes loaded with sharp cheddar cheese, braised pork that’s not at all dry - thank goodness - plus sliced, crisp green onions, a sweet red cabbage blend, and sour cream. It sounds and looks a little disgusting at first, but the stuff is so weird it’s addicting. Think nachos but, well, English.

Because the fries were so not filling at all, we ordered a round of sliders. Now we’ve had our share of sliders, or “mini-burgers” as many call them, and the Tribune just released a pretty detailed list of some great ones around town. And here. Many we’ve tried have been just plain old bad (sorry, Lux Bar) or simply boring (thumbs down to Martini Park), but these definitely were among the good, or better ones. Cooked to a perfect medium and very juicy (something hard to do with smaller patties), the mini-burgers are topped with delicious Swiss cheese, and sandwiched between two buttery, soft yet structured brioche buns, with some fresh baby spinach and a crisp pickle-sweet, cherry tomato garnish. Yum. We also tried the filet mignon sliders, which were again cooked perfectly to retain juiciness and topped with tasty caramelized onions. For the shredded pork burgers, although the pork reigned awesome on the crisps, it was a little on the dry, boring side here. Oh well. 08_2007_Chicagoist_English%20004.jpg

As far as drinks go, since English is really a bar, unless you’re a big fan of the sweet, you might want to skip the specialty cocktail martinis on the drink menu, despite that they sound kind of interesting (ie…white cucumber cosmo made with limon vodka). A vodka martini straight up with olives here was just right, so was a gin and tonic, and the beer menu’s not bad, featuring your standard picks plus some craft English brews and other unique finds. A number of people were drinking white and red wines from the decent list.

Save for the unique, floor-to-ceiling, antique framed photographs of people and scenes from the 1900s, and cool, retro light fixtures, the dark wood detailing, subway tiling, and some black and white coloring sort of reminded us of one of the “Centrals” or Union Park. However, the sheer largeness of the place definitely sets this place apart—three floors, three bars, and a handful of pool tables, hi top seating, and booths. Plus the use of an old building with pretty architecture is nice. Eat Well Drink Better definitely has their brands in order, and they’ve made a success out of this one too. We guess that could be good or bad.

English, located at 444 N. LaSalle St., 312-222-6200, is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday.